For those starting a career in audit at EY, salary and career progression are two things most will be interested in understanding. Generally speaking, an audit role in a Big 4 firm like EY will come with a great opening salary and a clearly defined path to more senior roles and the increasing salaries associated with them.

An entry-level auditor at EY in the major city offices can expect to earn approximately £30k per year. Once qualified as a Chartered Accountant, an Auditor can expect to be earning 45-50k per year. After this point, the salary becomes more closely tied to performance.

Back when I was set to join a Big 4 audit firm in 2015, I remember being very interest interested in how my salary would grow over time and what role I could find myself in after 3, 5 or even 10 years. Whilst this information can be found across the internet, I have put together the below post which lays out exactly where EY audit employees can expect to be in their careers over time and what salary they’ll be able to earn at each stage.

What is the normal career progression in EY UK audit?

Typical career progression within audit at EY UK involves 3 years as an Associate until fully qualified, 2 years as an Assistant Manager, 3 years as an Audit Manager, 2-5 years as a Senior Audit Manager and the rest of the audit career as a Director or Partner.

Whilst career progression will vary based on each individual’s ability, impact and availability of positions within a department, there is a fairly uniform career route within EY UK.

There are two normal routes into an entry-level role within Audit at EY UK. The most common route is via a graduate scheme which starts after University and allows employees to gain a professional accountancy qualification over three years.

There is also the School Leaver programme which allows those who don’t choose to go to University to join EY from school and earn a professional accountancy qualification over a longer period.

Before qualification, EY employees are known as “Associates” with a first-year graduate being referred to as an “Audit Associate” and second and third-year auditors typically referred to as a “Senior Associate”.

At the end of the qualification periods, the employee would be a fully qualified Accountant and be promoted to Assistant Manager.

Assistant Managers begin to take on the responsibilities of the day-to-day practicalities of an audit and become the key on-site contact for the client.

All being well, an Assistant Manager could expect to be promoted to Audit Manager after 1.5-3 years depending on performance and staffing requirements within the wider audit department. Being assertive and putting yourself forward for promotion will usually help speed up your advancement through the department.

Once an Auditor progresses to the Manager level – they are directly responsible for the management of audit engagements and are the key point of contact for the client. At this stage, career progression becomes less uniform and more down to the individual’s impact on their clients.

A top-performing Manager can be promoted to Senior Manager in as little as a year but 2 or 3 years is more common.

A Senior Manager performs a very similar role to a Manager albeit with larger or more complex audit engagements on their docket. There is often an expectation that a Senior Manager will be more involved in the development and leadership of the department at this point in their careers. Some Senior Managers will take on a more people-centred role which involves managing the more junior employees’ careers and considering the wider well-being of staff.

Senior Manager is typically the job role where people hit a ceiling and are unable to advance in terms of job title. For this reason, Senior Managers can be in their role from as little as one year before promotion to five years plus in some cases. Despite the difficulty in changing job titles, it is still possible to advance and earn more money by taking on greater responsibility across the department.

The final two roles in an EY UK audit department are Directors and Partners who both fulfil similar roles in that they are the team member who will sign the ultimate audit opinions and are the ones accountable for the quality of the audit work.

The progression to an Audit Partner (and therefore a profit share participant) rather than an Audit Director tends to be due to the individual’s impact on clients and the wider department as well as a bit of office politics.

How long does it take to qualify as a Chartered Accountant in audit at EY UK?

It takes three years for a graduate-scheme employee and five years for a School Leaver to qualify as a Chartered Accountant at EY UK assuming all exam and working day requirements are met. The practical process for applying for certification typically takes a few months to finalise.

Graduates will typically be on a 36-month training contract and will be fully qualified once all exams have been passed and the required number of training days logged. At the end of this contract, the training file will be signed off by the professional body and the employee will receive their certification.

My advice would be to maintain your training file throughout the 36-month training contract to avoid this hurdle when it comes to getting your file ready for sign-off.

How much can a first-year graduate trainee earn in audit at EY UK?

A first-year EY UK graduate trainee working in audit at a major city office can expect to earn a salary of around £30,000 per annum. This would typically be accompanied by a year-end bonus of £1,000 dependent on wider firm performance.

This is, relatively speaking, a high entry-level salary compared with the wider marketplace. This role will earn you more than most graduate positions less than industries like equity research or investment banking.

EY UK audit graduates will often work long hours and this combined with the high stress of professional qualification exams means trainees certainly work hard for their money.

Unlike other financial industries, the typical bonuses are nothing to write home about at around £1,000 per year. At this stage of the career, bonuses don’t fluctuate based on performance and will tend to be standard across the year group. If the firm has had a particularly good or bad year, the bonus pot may shrink or grow accordingly.

For a school leaver apprentice, the starting salary will be approximately £20,000. This is notably lower than graduates starting salary reflecting the value of the graduate’s University education. £20,000 per year straight out of school without a degree is still a good starting salary, particularly when the paid-for professional qualification and various benefits are considered.

Salary progression

How much can a second-year graduate earn in audit at EY UK?

A second-year EY UK graduate trainee working in audit can expect to earn a salary of around £34,000 per annum. This would typically be accompanied by a year-end bonus of £1,000 dependent on wider firm performance.

A £4,000 annual salary increase from £30,000 in the first year to around £34,000 in the second year represents a 13% increase. This represents a noticeable jump in income but it should be noted that the salary bumps between years 2 and 3 and then 3 and 4 are much better.

How much can a third-year graduate earn in audit at EY?

A third-year EY UK graduate trainee working in audit can expect to earn a salary of around £40,000 per annum representing a greater year-on-year increase than between years 1 and 2. This would typically be accompanied by a year-end bonus of £1,000 dependent on wider firm performance.

A £6,000 salary bump works out as an annual increase of around 18% which does reflect the far greater impact and responsibility that third-year trainees (also known as “Senior Associates” or “Seniors”) will have.

The bonus will stay consistent throughout the training contract at around £1,000 a year and won’t meaningfully change until promotion to the Assistant Manager position.

How much can a newly qualified Accountant (Assistant Manager) earn in audit at EY?

A newly-qualified Assistant Manager in audit at EY will earn in the region of £45,000-£50,000 per year which is around a 25% year-on-year increase. Assistant Managers will also be entitled to a larger share of the annual bonus pot and can expect around £2k+ per year depending on wider firm performance.

After qualifying, many EY auditors face the choice between continuing in audit and working as an Assistant Manager or leaving to work in the industry. Generally speaking, qualified accountants from EY can expect to earn more outside of the audit firm if they take their future job search seriously but the career progression opportunities may not be as predictable or lucrative as at EY.

A high-performing Assistant Manager may be able to be promoted to Manager within as little as 1.5 years which incentivises many to stay on within the audit department.

Once Assistant Managers reach their second year of being Assistant Managers, their salaries will likely increase to £50,000+ depending on individual performance and location.

How do post-qualification audit salaries at EY compare to the other Big 4 firms?

EY UK compares favourably with the other Big 4 audit firms; PwC, Deloitte and KPMG for post-qualification audit salaries. EY pays a similar salary as KPMG at the Assistant Manager level and slightly more than PwC and Deloitte but salaries do vary by location and performance.

Whilst all four members of the Big 4 pay similar salaries to their employees, EY does appear to pay competitive salaries in the more junior positions (Audit Associates and Assistant Managers).

At Manager and Senior Manager level and above, EY pays broadly in line with the other members of the Big 4, albeit with individual differences arising through external hiring, incentivising talented staff and performance.

For similar guides to this one on the other big four firms, check out the links below:

PwC UK Audit – Career and Salary Progression

Deloitte UK Audit – Career and Salary Progression

KPMG UK Audit – Career and Salary Progression

salary progression

How much can an Audit Manager earn at EY?

An EY Audit Manager will earn in the region of £55k in the first year of the role which can increase to £60k+ after a year in the role. Managers will also be entitled to a larger share of the annual bonus pot and can expect around £3-5k per year depending on wider firm performance.

Once EY UK audit employees reach the Audit Manager level, the salaries are slightly less rigid and more aligned to the individual’s performance and impact on the department. So whilst a brand new Audit Manager can expect to earn around £55k in the first year, this will vary.

For example, a new Audit Manager hired into the firm may receive more as an incentive to join the business or a particularly strong performing Assistant Manager may attract a higher starting salary than average if they have agreed to manage a significant client.

How long will it take to become an Audit Manager at EY?

At EY UK, it will take around 5 years to progress from a graduate new-starter to an Audit Manager. This will involve a 3-year training contract and then 2 years as an Assistant Manager. For those starting as an apprentice, it will take 7-8 years to become an Audit Manager.

How much can an Audit Senior Manager earn at EY?

An EY Audit Senior Manager will earn in the region of £65-70k in the first year of the role which can increase to £80k+ as they develop and depending on performance. A Senior Audit Manager’s additional compensation including cash bonuses can vary significantly with a lower limit of £5k per year.

An Audit Senior Manager is a senior role within the Audit Departments, outranked only by Directors and Partners. Senior Managers will typically manage the most complex or largest engagements and have a wider role within the department whether that be being in charge of employee welfare or driving department-wide quality initiatives.

As the role is less predictable and regimented than more junior roles, the salary and bonus expectations tend to have more variability and be more difficult to predict with any accuracy. A first-year Senior Manager could reasonably expect to earn total compensation (basic pay plus bonuses and benefits) of at least £75k per year.

How long will it take to become an Audit Senior Manager at EY?

At EY UK, it will take around 7 years to progress from a graduate new-starter to Audit Senior Manager. This will involve a 3-year training contract, 2 years as an Assistant Manager and 2 years as a Manager. For those starting as an Apprentice, it will take 10 years to become Senior Managers.

How much can an Audit Director earn at EY?

An EY UK Audit Director will earn in excess of £100k in the first year of the role, depending on performance and longevity. Audit Directors’ bonuses can vary significantly but generally speaking Audit Directors will not be part of the profit share as an Audit Partner would be.

How much can an Audit Partner earn at EY?

The majority of EY UK Audit Partners’ compensation comes in the form of a profit-sharing arrangement rather than a salary. This fluctuates based on the performance of the wider firm but as per The Guardian, EY paid its Partner an average of £667,000 last year.

It’s important to note that this is an average and is skewed by especially high earners. My instinct would be that an ordinary Audit Partner would be toward the lower end of this average, likely in the 150-300k per annum range.

Amongst the Big 4, EY pays Partners the second lowest as of 2020, exceeding only the salaries KPMG paid to partners.

Whilst EY pays good salaries across the board, it should be clear that to earn a truly amazing salary, it’s necessary to progress to the Audit Partner level which is a hugely difficult task.

How long will it take to become an Audit Partner at EY?

At EY UK, it will take around 15-18 years to progress from a new starter to Audit Partner but this is highly variable based on individual performance and can be both shorter in some cases and much longer in others. Many EY audit employees never make it to Partner and top out as Audit Directors.

Unlike other roles in the Audit department, becoming an Audit Partner isn’t as simple as putting the time in and working well. It is quite common for Audit employees to progress to Director level and then hit a ceiling either through choice or not having the necessary qualities of a Partner.

Is it hard to find a secondment when working in EY UK audit?

Whilst working for EY UK in audit, it can be difficult to arrange a secondment to another part of the Business. Whilst it is fairly common and something the firm appears to be getting better at, audit departments don’t want to lose their key resources, making seconding difficult.

In order to successfully transfer to another department, audit staff will need to find a way to build contacts in the department they are looking to join to have someone to advocate for you on the other side. It’s also a good idea to make the audit department management aware of any desire to transfer as early as possible to avoid surprising them with this news when they may not have sufficient resources in place to cover the work.

As always, please remember I am an Accountant, but not your Accountant. In this post (and all of my others) I share information and oftentimes give anecdotes about what has worked well for me. However, I do not know your personal financial situation and so do not offer individual financial advice. If you are unsure of a particular financial subject, please hire a qualified financial advisor to guide you.

This article has been written by Luke Girling, ACA – a qualified Accountant and personal finance enthusiast in the UK. Please visit my About page for more information. To verify my ACA credentials – please search for my name at the ICAEW member finder. Please comment below or contact me here to get in touch with questions or ideas for future posts.